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Category Archives: Kitsch

White Elephant Blogging: Follow That Bird

Follow That Bird DVDI have to admit that my maiden voyage into the second annual White Elephant Film Blogathon was approached with some trepidation. What kind of cinematic turd are they gonna hand me? Then I found out the movie I was to write about was Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird — hey, that’s not so bad. Sesame Street played a big part in my fondest childhood memories. As long as it doesn’t have that idiot Elmo, we should be fine.

Although Elmo does briefly appear near the end (not speaking, thank heavens), overall the movie offers a sweet and gentle peek into the hermetically sealed world of Sesame Street as it existed in 1985. The thin plot kicks off with Big Bird getting adopted out to a family of muppet dodo birds by a busybody social worker named Miss Finch (voiced by Sally Kellerman). Not being happy in Dodo’s prefab suburban birdhouse, our feathered friend decides to walk his way back home across America’s rural landscape — will the other Sesame Streeters ever find him and take him back home?

If there’s a central message to SSP:FTB, it might be that city dwelling is the only true way to live. As this film has it, even the friendliest of country folk have a certain dark something to hide. Just look at some of the shady characters who turn up: a creepy singing truck driver (Waylon Jennings). A surly, salad-throwing waitress (Sandra Bernhard). Two sadistic carnival operators (SCTV‘s Dave Thomas and Joe Flaherty). Not to mention the pair of frighteningly generic farm kids who want to adopt Big Bird, probably to subject him to some kind of Children of the Corn thing.

Which brings me to another nagging element in this movie — everything is so clean. Despite the Americana setting, this movie was filmed entirely in Ontario, Canada. It’s odd to see country roads without billboards and trash everywhere. Worse yet, the re-created outdoor Sesame Street set looks so spotless one could eat right off Oscar the Grouch’s can. Where’s the grittiness?

The Follow that Bird DVD is presented in pan-and-scan full frame with no extras to speak of. Those looking for a salty commentary by an out-of-character Caroll Spinney (“John Candy was a bitch”) will be sorely disappointed. Despite that, I succumbed to its sweetness. Read the rest of the 2nd Annual White Elephant Film Blogathon.

New Mix: The Mr. Blackwell Show

Nowadays he might be dimly known for his bitchy “Worst Dressed” lists, but back in the ’60s Richard Blackwell had his own fashion line for plus-sized women and society matrons desiring a Beverly Hills sophisticated-yet-casual look. The gowns (and, yes, it was mostly gowns) he created had this luxe “swanky chic” thing going on — something I wanted to recreate using soundtrack cuts and soft pop music of the era. It’s in the same spirit as my holiday mix that I decided to share it with Scrubbles readers right here, in a downloadable continuous mix.

So, what was I going for on this one? It’s the sound of a modish soirée in a Technicolor Blake Edwards confection. Or of a woman in a Pucci print caftan curling up with a Jacqueline Susann novel. It’s “The Ladies Who Lunch” on a Mediterranean cruise. Luxurious, somewhat cheesy, but oh so elegant. If I could pick one track that epitomizes that feeling, it would be Henry Mancini’s lovely “Party Poop” from the soundtrack for the Peter Sellers comedy The Party. Enjoy.

The Mr. Blackwell Collection - Front

The Mr. Blackwell Collection - Back

Forever My Girl

Long, long ago I can remember seeing a clip on Entertainment Tonight of a teenage Paula Abdul frolicking in some godforsaken low-budget musical set in a high school cafeteria. She looked dorky, the song was dorky, and the kitsch gods were smiling down on me. Eighteen-odd years later, I revisited it — and, yeah, it’s still hilariously awful. Little did Paula know that she and her feather-haired Van Nuys classmates from Junior High School (1978) would live on through the courtesy of YouTube. The entire 39 minute featurette can be found there, but you can get all you need from the first two minutes of the clip below — with Paula croaking out “we’re gonna have a party” to her singing, dancing friends. Plays sort of like a hybrid of The ABC Afterschool Special and a bargain basement Grease, you know?

Sweet Chewy Nostalgia

Halloween candy flashback time! The temporarily renamed Neato Ghoulsville writes about Wrapples, the 1970s product for lazy people who crave a quick and easy caramel apple. I remember Wrapples really well — my father was a salesman for Kraft Foods back then, so we had a lot of them around the house. I used to wrap them cold around an apple, or better yet just eat them rolled up. I also liked to devour the single chocolate caramel Kraft used to insert in their bags of individually wrapped caramels. I wonder why they did that?

Ernö Rubik’s Breakfast Nook

Dining Room ‘68

I kind of like this multicolored floor — real kicky! And you can’t go wrong with Eero Saarinen furnishings. This is actually one of the more subtle interiors from the Your Swingin’ Pad set, assembled by flickr user Miss Retro Modern (via Eye of the Goof).

Things to Watch While Sick

Yesterday I came down with a bout of sickness — runs, fever, headaches, icky feelings in my gut. I’m feeling much better now, but have you ever noticed that whenever you’re sick and stuck in front of the TV you’ll pretty much watch anything? Well, almost anything — old episodes of Sesame Street were too shrill. Sick TV viewing requires programs that are a bit tasteless and easy to digest, the mushy oatmeal of basic cable. Here’s what I saw:

Tattletales (GSN) — A 1976 episode of the green-carpeted classic had a panel of game show hosts and their wives. Richard Dawson stood in for Bert Convy as host, with Mr. and Mrs. Convy representing the banana section, Bob Barker and wife in the red section and Jack Narz and wife in the blue section. The Barkers won.
Music City News Top Country Hits ’81 (RFD) — I’m so glad I came across this completely random bit of programming on “Rural America’s Most Important Network.” An awards show with no awards, just a lot of lip synched performances and telepromptered banter from hosts Tanya Tucker and Jim Stafford. Worth it to see Stafford gamely trying (and failing) to get the audience to sing along to “It’s Hard to Be Humble.” I also caught a bit of Penny Gilley‘s talk show with some of the worst canned laughter ever put on tape.
One for the Book (TCM) — A slow-paced but enjoyable 1947 comedy recorded during Ronald Reagan day from last month’s Summer Under The Stars film fest. Seeing it reminded me of what blah onscreen presence Reagan had — how on earth did he stay a movie star for so long? On the other hand it did have a couple of plusses with Eve Arden being Eve Arden and an unusually literate script (adapted from the stage hit Voice of the Turtle). Leading lady Eleanor Parker is lovely and appealing, conveying a nice vulnerability while wearing an unfortunate wig with severe bangs.
Kate & Allie (WE) — I’ve been TiVoing these for a while and they reinforce my belief that K&A was one of overlooked treasures among ’80s sitcoms. In its prime, that is. The episodes I saw yesterday were from the dismal final year when the newlywed Allie and Bob moved into that huge, pastel-colored condo with Kate hanging around pathetically like a third wheel. In this case all for the better, since laughing would have hurt my stomach.
Cheaters (G4) — I occasionally record this unapologetically trashy show, hoping for the ones where a married guy gets caught cheating with another dude. No such luck this time.